December 31, 2008

Pringles, Calendars, Whiskers on Kittens

Pardon my sour-cream-and-onion breath: I'm eating Pringles. NO it is not even nine o'clock in the morning, WHAT OF IT. Also, the tube concept is basically a failure: after a finger's-length of the stack has been removed, the rest of the chips are inaccessible unless there is Tipping and Shaking. Also-also, there is a typo on my can, because it says there are 7 servings in here.

I had a good holiday, did you? I didn't get the child-safe tranq-dart gun I asked Santa for, but apparently the elves can't make sophisticated stuff like that, or anyway that's what I heard about the eyebrow piercing I wanted in high school.

Do I seem a little STRUNG OUT to you, and is "strung out" the expression I want? Maybe I mean "stir-crazy." I have been in this house with five children for....well, I don't know how long it's been and perhaps I should start making chalk marks on the walls. During some of this time, a child has been barfing, and then another child was barfing. The barfing has stopped for now, but who knows which mole will pop up with it next?

I have been just DYING to SHOP, and I was SO dying to shop, I took all five kids with me to Target on Monday. It was not a total fail, but it was not a relaxing opportunity to acquire comforting consumer products, either. Instead we bought diapers and....I don't remember what else. Nothing fun. Oh: more laundry soap, because of all the barfing.

And my parents babysat one evening so Paul and I could escape the drudgery of our lives go out for my annual calendar-shopping trip. (That link will take you to a Milk and Cookies post about which calendar I ended up buying, and I do hope you'll leave a comment over there telling me which one you have this year. I don't know why I find calendars so interesting, but I just DO.) Other than that, I've been trapped trapped TRAPPED!

Can we do a little post-holiday survey?

1. When do you take down your holiday decorations? My tree seems to mock me with what once looked glorious and celebratory and now looks tacky and pointless.

2. Do you get "post-holiday blues"? If so, how blue do they get, and how long do they last?

3. Do you buy holiday stuff on clearance for the next year? I love getting gift wrap at 90% off, but I have to use some self-control this year, as I already have lots of paper bought at 90% off (why no one else wanted the glittery purple wrapping paper I'll NEVER KNOW). Last year I risked some fabric ribbon at 90% off, and it is so gorgeous I'm definitely going to try to get more of it this year.

4. When do you incorporate all the new stuff into the household? We still have boxes and laundry baskets all over the place, each containing a person's new possessions. I half-heartedly started to put away my new stuff, but then I accidentally "put away" (IN MY MOWF) a Lindt Santa and there went my motivation. I'd like to avoid what happened last year: when I was cleaning for my mother-in-law's autumn visit, I found the children's stocking bags still sitting in their rooms. That was in October.

December 24, 2008

REEEEEUWWWWWW!

I was so busy today. So busy! And when Paul got home from work I kept trying to impress him with stories of how busy I was today, but he kept not acting impressed.

Do you remember that episode of The Simpsons where Apu says he once worked so many hours in a row at the Kwik-E-Mart, he thought he was a hummingbird of some sort? And then they show the Kwik-E-Mart security tape, and first it's just showing empty/silent store, and then Apu reeeeeeuwwwws by on his tiptoes with his elbows up like hummingbird wings, and then it's empty/silent store again, and then Apu reeeuwws past again from the other direction? That's how I was today. Reeeeeeuuwwww! Reeeeeuwww! The children could barely find me, I was such a blur!

First thing in the morning I made muffins, and that was really just showing off foolish, because the children could easily have had cereal, and I had a TON of other stuff to get done. But the bananas had turned and were at the perfect mashing moment, and there was a footie-sleepered, plump-tummed, morning-haired baby saying "Fuffins! Fuffins!" and so I made fuffins. Which no one except Mr. Fuffins liked because we didn't have quite enough banana so I topped it off with a little teeny bit of whole-berry cranberry sauce. There was, like, one cranberry per muffin, and everyone except Henry picked apart their muffin suspiciously, saying, "What is this BERRY thing here?"

Then I made a bunch of stuff I just realized I can't tell you about because it's for gifts, and in fact I've said too much already. Well, trust me that I made TONS of stuff. Like, FOUR recipes, that kind of tons. And wrapped and sorted and ribboned, and put out a treat bag for the mail carrier.

Meanwhile, I had the washer and dryer going. I know! But I'd realized that I'd once again neglected to plan ahead, so all the kids' red and/or green shirts were in the laundry from being worn earlier in the week.

Then I spent a couple of hours....oh, shoot, that's secret too. Not even INTERESTING secret, in fact BORING secret, but I guess I can't tell about that either. Suffice it to say it was a long and boring chore-like activity.

And I wrapped a couple of presents! And tidied up a little! And made dinner for the children! Very busy!

Man, no wonder Paul was kind of dropping off.

Well, the upshot is that it was a busy, busy day, with a happy buzzingly productive feeling of "It's Christmas Eve!" running through it, and only a little bit of "OMG EVERYONE GET OUT OF THE KITCHEN AND LET ME WORK ON THE JOY OF GOR-DURNED CHRISTMAS!!"

I hope you all have an excellent holiday, and that you will also have a pleasant and reeeuwwwwy 2009, which I have GOT to stop writing as 2006 or people are going to worry.

December 23, 2008

Promises to Keep

I have a bunch of little miscellaneous things to get to, mostly things I promised to do and haven't done. So let's get cracking!

Do you want to see how the Swistmas Package came out? Mimi did a post showin' the stuff.

I promised Pseudostoops that I (1) had and (2) would post, the recipe for "those delicious things that are like rice krispie treats but with peanut butter and a thick coating of chocolate on top." The recipe is from a booklet called Nestle Best-Loved Cookies, which I bought from the impulse-buy section of the grocery store a LONG time ago, back before Paul and I were married, or maybe shortly after. Like it matters. Here's the recipe:


Chocolate Butterscotch Cereal Bars
1 cup sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1 cup creamy peanut butter
6 cups crisp rice cereal
1 cup (6 ounces) semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup (6 ounces) butterscotch chips

Combine sugar and corn syrup in large saucepan [I use a 3-quart]; bring just to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Remove from heat; stir in peanut butter. Stir in cereal. Press into greased 9x13 pan.

Microwave chocolate and butterscotch chips until melted. Spread over cereal mixture in pan. Chill in pan for 20 minutes or until firm. Cut into bars.

*****
Now, if I remember correctly, I TWEAK this recipe a little. For example, I think I use more chocolate and butterscotch chips than called for. Like---half again as many? And also, I don't get too vigorous when I'm pressing the cereal mixture into the pan, because it can get hard to bite into if it's too dense. I press it in a way I'd call "firm but considerate."


Okay, next up! Do you remember when I won this gorgeous prize box from Amy Quarry? One of the things in the box was a gorgeous dress for Elizabeth from Amy's Etsy shop. I promised Amy I would send her some pictures of Elizabeth wearing the dress, and did I follow through? NO. Well, until today.

This is how the dress looked when she was wearing it this summer with a short-sleeved white shirt. It was even cuter without the shirt (skinny little shoulders!), but she's always a little on the chilly side.




And this is how it looks when she's wearing it in fall/winter, with a long-sleeved shirt and tights. I don't know WHERE the child's shoes are. Nor do I know where this child's mother's IRON is, but maybe she (the mother) could FIND it from time to time. Just saying.




I ALSO won a contest over at Cerebral Palsy Baby, from her Etsy shop Small Grapes. The prize was a letter/number shirt of my choice, and I asked for a "3" shirt in gender-neutral colors so both twins could wear it. She sent me this shirt. Here's a picture of Edward wearing it:

Every time he wears it, he says, "It's THREE! Like ME!!!" Heady stuff for a toddler.


I have a new baby picture of my little spruce sprouts!



There are FOUR of them! Pretty soon I'm going to need to buy them their own little pots!


I tried a variation on the baked oatmeal recipe. I had some leftover frozen berries (strawberries, blackberries, blueberries), so I thawed them most of the way, sliced a knife around in the container to break up some of the larger berries, and put it into the recipe in place of the apple and pineapple (I still used the banana). It came out nice. Not as good as with apples, I'd say, but good---and a good way to use up some fruit that was getting all freezer-burnt.


There! Are we caught up? Or did I forget something I promised you?

December 22, 2008

Love, Swistle

Dear William,

You left an unopened container of chocolate milk in your lunch box all weekend. Probably I should have checked, since you are only in second grade. But do you smell that smell? That is why you have a paper lunch bag today.

Love, Mommy




Dear Rollover Ad,

I did not roll over you. Stop pretending like you think I did. That is so annoying, I am already boycotting your maker.

Love, Swistle




Dear "Recipe-Ready" Chopped Pecans,

You call that chopped? Think again, friends.

Love, Swistle




Dear Mean Anonymous Commenters,

That is not going to look good on your permanent record. Also: sometimes you don't notice you've been automatically logged in.

Love, Swistle




Dear Paul's Sister,

Sweetheart, Christmas is a completely predictable holiday. It doesn't get SPRUNG on us: it's on the calendar from Day 1, and it's not until Day 359, so there's plenty of warning. When you mail the kids' presents too late to arrive for Christmas, and you do it EVERY YEAR, and you KNOW they arrive too late, and you write to say you hope they won't arrive too late even though you mailed them parcel post on December 23rd...well, I'm not going to tell you how to live your life, but doesn't any alternate plan suggest itself to you?

Love, Swistle-in-Law




Dear Biological Clock,

OMG SHUT IT. Haven't I done enough for you? We were a good team, but it is OVER. Retire to Arizona or something.

Love, Swistle




Dear Paul,

Me and my biological clock, we are waiting for diamonds. Or maybe a puppy. Or, I don't know. SOMETHING.

Love, Swistle




Dear Rob,

Think about what you want to say before you start saying it. I am trying to be a patient, listening, here-for-you kind of mother, but it is hard for me to focus on The Moment when you are saying, "Hey, Mommy. Um...when I....um....I mean, when YOU....um.... thing. Um, the other day, when YOU said that WE....um." Think it out first, cupcake.

Love, Mommy




Dear Coffee,

The idea is that you're supposed to get me through the day, and then punch the time clock. If your shift starts at 7:00 a.m., I don't need you here at 11:00 p.m. No overtime will be granted. Kthanx for your understanding.

Love, Swistle




Dear Snow,

You prevented my friend's 40th birthday present from getting to her on time. Birthdays are always important, but especially decade birthdays. You and I are no longer on speaking terms.

Love, Swistle




Dear Dr. Seuss,

If you have to totally make up words in order to make your books have rhythm and rhyme, maybe you should try a different writing style. Not everyone has the same talents, and that's okay.

Love, Swistle

December 21, 2008

Paul's Presents

It's pretty much too late for this post, since here we are at December 21st already. But I'm posting it anyway, because some of you might have Amazon.com's Prime (2-day) shipping, and if you have never had Prime, you can get a free one-month trial, and gosh this would be a good time for that. It gives you free 2-day shipping on anything you order, whether you're shipping it to your own address or to a gift address.

And also, I suppose you could still get to a store. Ah ha ha ha ha ha ha haha!

So, guys are really hard to buy for. I'll show you what I got for Paul, and maybe the guys on your list would like some of the same things.


The next volume in the Hikaru No Go graphic novel series. This is a series for teenagers, so if you have any teenagers to buy for I recommend it for them, too. I buy the books in groups of four, because they qualify for the "4-for-3" deal---so instead of costing $8 each, they're $6 each.




Perspective for Comic Book Artists is a book Paul got out of the library and kept talking and Talking and TALKING about how awesome it was. He and the kids were trying it out, and they immediately started producing some really awesome looking 3D drawings. In fact, this would be another great gift idea for a teenager, and why does my husband like so many teenagery things?




How Round is Your Circle?: Where Engineering and Mathematics Meet is not a book I would have just GUESSED he wanted. He had to do some pretty serious hinting involving a URL.




Paul's been whining about wanting a small notebook that has GRAPH paper in it. Voila: the Moleskine squared notebook.




Recipes for Disaster: An Anarchist's Cookbook is another one I wouldn't have guessed he wanted, but he said he thought it looked like a fun read. I felt weird ordering it, like my file was being flagged by some government program just for purchasing such a book.




A Man, A Can, A Plan is an easy cookbook marketed to men. We got the second book in the series as part of a package I won from The New Girl, and Paul REALLY liked it and wanted to make a bunch of stuff from it, so I ordered him the first book on the sly.




Paul is always bitching about how his measuring tape doesn't have METRIC on it, and considering we live in a country that uses VERY LITTLE METRIC, I think he just sounds like an ASS going around saying things in centimeters. But whatever, I bought him a metric measuring tape.




He looked at my Victoriana calendar and said wistfully that he wished there was a MATH calendar. Well, there is: I got him the The Mathematics Calendar 2009, and may they be very happy together.




Paul has a subscription to Make Magazine, but his subscription started around issue #10 so I've been buying him individual copies of the backissues he missed. Amazon.com has them for about $10 each, which is about what you pay per issue if you subscribe, too.




Paul LOVES Altoid Sours, and they used to be available at Target in 2-packs, but now our Targets only sell the mango flavor, and what Paul likes is the tangerine and the lemon. So I found them in a bulk pack on Amazon: 16 tins for around $25, which compares acceptably to the 2 tins for $3 price I used to buy them for. It comes in two boxes of 8 tins each, so I give him one 8-pack for Christmas and the other for his birthday.




Finally, here's something I bought SUPPOSEDLY for Rob, but I bought it because Paul was slavering all over it and saying how AWESOME it would be..."for Rob." So "for Rob," then, we bought the Rubik's 5x5 ($9 down from $30!) and also a copy of the book Speedsolving the Cube, which is the kind of book that allows your serious geek to "impress" people by solving Rubik's cubes rapidly with a formula.

December 19, 2008

Handbag


Today I saw this Fossil handbag, in "Stripe" as shown here, for $30 (down from $88) at T. J. Maxx. I did not buy it, even though I need a new purse and was in fact shopping for a purse, and I had three reasons:

1. I have never spent $30 on a purse. I've always bought them at, like, 75% off at Target for less than $10. And right at the expensive holiday season didn't seem like the right time to grow as a person in this area.

2. I worried it wasn't....Swistleish.

3. I wasn't sure if I LIKED IT liked it, or if I just felt I SHOULD like it.


The question is: Did I make a mistake? Should I go back for it?

More Gift Ideas: Teachers

Teachers. Gifts. Every year I fret. Evidence of past fretting:

Teacher Gifts (Dec 2007)
Teacher Gifts (May 2008)
Teacher Appreciation Week (May 2008)
Teacher Gifts, Part One: Time to Worry! (May 2008)
Teacher Gifts, Part Two: The Worrying Intensifies! (May 2008)


Well, okay, apparently I mostly worried in May 2008.

Myself, I have read one too many article/comment saying things like "Teachers don't want a bunch of crap to lug home" and "I have no closet space because I save all the gifts I hate," so I'm a convert to gift cards. $10 Target cards all around!

December 18, 2008

Winner of the Gift Card; Donating Without Donating

The winner of the T. J. Maxx or Marshalls gift card contest is Anna of the 9:30 p.m. comment! Congrats, Anna! Email me your address (swistle at gmail dot com) and I'll get the card on its way!

********

I've hesitated for three days to link to this, because I'm afraid/hopeful that you guys are the type of niceys who would be happy to click through for a good cause, and poor Pseudostoops will end up broke and sorry she ever chose to do what I think is a great idea: giving 50 cents to charity for every comment she gets. She's doing a series of posts, one for each of five charities, and I commented each of the first three days so I've cost her a cool dollar-fifty.

Today is Day Four, and she's had another donor offer to match donations if she gets to over $50 (which would be 50 comments, since she starts at a $25 guaranteed donation), and so I'm going to take her at her word that she WANTS people to empty her pockets. So if you'd like to, click through and leave a comment, and you'll donate 50 cents to charity without having to actually give up 50 cents---and if she gets over 50 comments, you'll be donating a dollar without having to actually give up a dollar. Awesome.

December 17, 2008

Conversion (Edited to Include Giveaway)

My mom and I have been shopping together for a long time. We have several different shopping destinations, we have a particular route we take through each store, and we have particular places we stop for lunch. It's all established. But there has been a change. It is such a huge and significant change, my mom still hasn't adjusted even though it's been well over a year now.

My mom loves Marshalls, T. J. Maxx, and Home Goods, but all three stores used to send me off the cliff of despair. I used to go through picking up a picture frame, a baby outfit, a kitchen utensil, a book---but then I always ended up putting everything back and leaving with nothing except a disappointed, unfulfilled feeling. It happened so often, I developed an aversion, and my mom ended up shopping there only when her fashionable friends wanted to look for clothes.

I can't explain what happened to change my mind. Did it start with the mother-in-law dishes? I think maybe it did. I was looking for some Good Dishes to use for company, and I wanted them to be something my mother-in-law would approve of---but something I'd enjoy using, too, and something fun to buy. Since my mother-in-law and I, ah, differ in our personal styles, this task seemed a challenge. I checked Target: meh. Walmart: meh. The mall: meh meh meh meh meh Food Court meh meh.

My mom wanted to check T. J. Maxx and Marshalls, and I was resistant. But there they were at T. J. Maxx, the dishes of my dreams:
Johnson Brothers British Castles pattern. From ENGLAND, which makes everything automatically better. And perfect in every way: definitely Good Dishes, but fine for everyday use; definitely to my tastes, but also to my mother-in-law's. But check out the PRICE: even on Amazon.com, $120 for service for four, and that's down from $200. YIPE. Go on, guess how much they were at T. J. Maxx. Go on. No, I'll just tell you: $56 for service for four. Still a pretty penny, but about the same price as the NON-England sets I saw at Target and Walmart and didn't even LIKE.

The next time we went is I think when I found the super-soft blankies Henry liked, and the next time after that is when I found the $2 measuring spoons that are my reigning favorites, and then I found a really pretty magazine holder:



So then me and T. J. Maxx were B. F. Fxx, pretty much. I still wasn't much keen on Marshalls. But then---I found the Swistle-colored purse accessories. I still LOVE those. I also found two Melissa and Doug puzzles there, and a Maisy DVD, and a pair of Converse tennies for William, and a pretty mirror, and...well. You know how it goes: it starts out as an innocent flirtation, and before you know it you're two-timing Target. Or three-timing. Or four-timing, once I'd found a British Castles serving platter, a set of juice glasses, three pictures for Elizabeth's room, a Hello Kitty journal, and a pack of Maisy notecards at Home Goods.

And so a year has quickly passed, and meanwhile my house has changed. Take a look at this corner of my living room:


I have drawn an arrow to each thing that was purchased from T. J. Maxx or Marshalls. Metal antique-finish oval decorative mirror on chain? ARROW. Old-fashioned drawing of lady with parasol? ARROW. Metal antique-finish round clock? ARROW. Old-fashioned drawing of birdie? ARROW. Nothing was more than $10. Oh, wait---the mirror might have been $11. But the bird picture was only $5. (Also, could you please tell that FERN THING to BACK OFF?)

This is the last day to order from Amazon.com with the free shipping and still get it before Christmas. If you still have some shopping to do, I suggest waggling your eyebrows in the direction of my new flings.


Edit: Okay, I feel a little dumb because I was thinking T. J. Maxx and Marshalls were just Remarkably Similar (also: I thought "Marshalls" had an apostrophe in it), but it turns out they are, like, basically the same store, owned by the same people. And those people explained it to me very politely and then asked if I would like to give away a $25 gift card to either T. J. Maxx or Marshalls, and I know you guys are not exactly rolling in the big bucks so I said I would.

Normally I wouldn't make a contest over so quick, but some of you are probably worrying about holiday shopping and so I want to get the gift card to you before the holidays if possible, and so I'm only going to have the contest until tomorrow morning. If you live near a T. J. Maxx and/or a Marshalls, leave a comment on this post by 8:00 a.m. U.S. Pacific Time on December 18th, and tell me which store you'd rather have a gift card to. I'll use a random number generator to choose a winner and we'll get that gift card on its way.

December 16, 2008

Arrested Development

I know you guys like you some Arrested Development, so OMG the complete series box set is on sale for $28.99, with free shipping in time for Christmas. Beat THAT.

December 15, 2008

Loser of the War, Winner of the Contest

Certain elements of certain kinds of sadness can be a certain amount of.....er. Enjoyable. Not that I'd say so to Paul. Because I am indeed very sad, and don't want him to think I'm milking it.

There can be a "holiday" or "vacation" feeling to sadness: these are special times and special measures are required. Bakedy things. Candy. Pizza two nights in a row. Not doing the dishes.

There is a certain level of pleasure in making Paul aware of how sad he's made me, of what a significant "getting his way" moment this is in the timeline of our marriage. I look at him with large, shining, welling eyes. He says, "Oh, honey." He doesn't feel bad enough to change his mind, but he feels bad enough to bring home the candy and make the pizza and do the dishes.

There is the tender care of the victorious spouse: I am clearly the defeated spouse, and so he can afford to be generous and gracious and kind. I have had more pattings and hugs and hair-strokings in the last couple of days than in the last year. I am the household invalid. I have wiped my nose on his sleeve. I suspect my Christmas presents will be more abundant this year. There is the feeling that he owes me, that something will need to happen in the future to restore balance.

There is the feeling that anything that makes the sadness feel better is justified and should be tried. Would I feel better if I went on a little outing by myself? Perhaps. Would I feel better if I spent some time on my computer while he played with all the children? It's worth a try. Would I feel better if we had long discussions about topics normally too boring for him to face? Listen, if it stops the crying for a little while it's well worth it.

And I'm SO glad we have a Swistmas contest, because it really makes me feel happy to assemble treat boxes. It is great fun, and I highly recommend it if you're feeling a little low. It's distracting, and it gives you an excuse to bake.

The winner of the Swistmas package is Mimi All Me, which is even MORE fun because Mimi is currently experiencing a surprise pregnancy, and there are few things in this world I love more than surprise pregnancies. And perhaps if I link to her and fuss over her she will UPDATE more often, because posting on December 3rd that it is the day of the first appointment/ultrasound and then NOT POSTING AGAIN is unacceptable, especially once the suggestion of twins has been dropped into the conversation.

Mimi, I am emailing you this morning so we can talk about food allergies and such.

December 14, 2008

No

This weekend Paul and I reached the end of a 13-year discussion entitled "Babies: Should We Have One, and If So When?" Before we were married, our agreement was that we'd take it one baby at a time---that there was really no way to decide on a number AHEAD of time so we'd just see how it went.

Our fifth baby was not planned. In fact, Paul had decided we were done after four. I was sad, but I agreed. And then...Henry. I was delighted, to the point of worrying Paul would think I'd tricked him (NO). Also, I am good at Big Picture thinking, and so my feeling was that in the long run this was going to be fine: in 25 years we'd be at Fifth Baby's wedding and we wouldn't even remember that the plan had been to stop at four. I considered him an enormously lucky bonus. After he was born, I looked at him often and thought, "If things had gone according to our plans, you would not be here! Our plans SUCK!"

Paul really, really loves Henry---it is almost comical to see it. It almost brings the word (favorite) to mind. So I guess I had nurtured the hope that Paul had come out of this experience with the same feelings I had: that we had more room than we'd thought; that adding another was HAPPY and GOOD; that it didn't really matter how many we had, we'd always be glad about it.

In fact, I'm afraid my mind tends to make plans before they're needed, and so I had been thinking next fall would be a nice time to have another baby. I'd been looking at my Pill pack and thinking that Paul and I should have a Serious Talk in the next two weeks, because maybe I'd stop taking it after this pack: I'm in my mid-thirties and don't want to wait too long. I went too far and started thinking, "I wonder if the baby will be a boy or a girl?" I didn't quite start imagining what I'd order from the maternity ward room service menu, but almost.

Today I called in a refill on my prescription, and when they asked if I wanted to put it on auto-refill so I wouldn't have to keep calling every month, I said yes.

I'm not okay. I am good at Big Picture thinking, as I mentioned, so I imagine I WILL be okay, and I'm not the kind of not-okay where there needs to be Worry. But I'm not okay. I'm sad. I'm worried I'll always be sad: that I'll be an old lady still wishing for another baby, that we're missing out on someone we needed very badly. I keep thinking of The Baby---the baby I'd been picturing arriving next year. Then I keep saying to myself, "No."

I'm self-medicating. I had about three cups of hot coffee this morning, with heavy cream AND flavored coffee creamer. I'm taking candy out of the supply I bought for Christmas stockings. I washed my hair and used a special conditioner. I put on my second-favorite shirt (my favorite one is in the wash) and my new favorite cheery pink/red/orange earrings I got at Target on 75% off. I put on a happy face, because I've heard it takes more muscles to frown and I'm all about taking the easy way.

Is it working?


I feel ridiculous, being sad. I mean, let's compare, shall we? On one hand, let's look at all the people who got a late start and are hoping to have just one or maybe two babies before fertility is gone. Let's consider all the people having miscarriages, and fertility treatments, and stillbirths, and then let's think of the people who try for years and don't have enough money for other options. Let's think about the people who are trying to adopt just one single baby and it keeps not working out, or they finally get a baby and then the birth mother changes her mind. Let's look at all of them, and then let's look at Swistle: Swistle, who has had a total of four easily-conceived and healthy pregnancies leading to a total of five full-term and healthy children, and is sad because she can't have a sixth child. Yeah. Real pitiful.

On the other hand, I think that kind of thinking is crap when other people do it. "I shouldn't feel so sorry for myself that my baby is premature and in the NICU: I should be glad she's alive." "You shouldn't complain that the dishes have food on them after your husband 'washes' them---some people's husbands are DEAD." I think negative-positive thinking can be a good tool for feeling better, but not if it makes a person feel bad for feeling bad. What, we're not allowed to feel bad because Things Could Be Worse? By that policy, only the Worst-Off Person in the World is allowed to feel bad; everyone else has to feel lucky and happy when their cars get wrecked and their basements flood and their pregnancies fail and their husbands have affairs, because other people are killed in accidents and other people's houses collapse and other people can't even get pregnant and other people's husbands die. And THOSE people have to feel lucky because at least it was only them who died and not their whole family, and at least their house collapsed when no one was inside, and at least they didn't have a child and then have that child die, and at least they had a husband.

Well, screw that. I do feel bad. I do feel sad. I am helping myself by thinking about how lucky I truly, truly am---but I'm also unlucky, as is everyone who has a decision they don't like made for them by someone/something else. As is everyone who wants a baby they can't have.

Pay-it-Forward Updates

Stories of Brooks, Grady, Hillary, and Ryan is starting a new contest.

December 13, 2008

More Gift Ideas: On Swistle's Wish List

These are things I want. So clearly EVERYONE would want them.



Outliers, the new Malcolm Gladwell book. I loved Blink and The Tipping Point, both of which are good gift ideas except that they got a lot of publicity so most people who would be interested in them have already read them.




The Blue Cotton Gown: A Midwife's Memoir, by Patricia Harman. Some midwife memoirs are excellent and make me want to investigate midwife schools (I LOVED Delivery: A Nurse-Midwife's Story, by Jennifer Crichton); others are disappointing. I can't resist trying all of them.




Sleeveface. Photographs of people posing with album covers. It's hard to explain why I want it. I just do.




Normal Rockwell postcard book. To feed my Postcrossing obsession.




Valentine postcards card book. Also for Postcrossing problem.




Perfumes: The Guide. Recommended to me by Bring A. Torch AND Jonniker, so I have high hopes.




Chocolate-covered DRIED cherries. Like Raisinets, but cherries instead of raisins. These have to come back in stock or I will die.




The Oxford Project. OMG this looks so awesome. Peter Feldstein took a photo portrait of almost everyone in the town of Oxford---and then he went back 20 years later and did it again, and he brought a writer (Stephen G. Bloom) with him to get the stories down.




Canon Powershot digital camera. My Kodak EasyShare Z700 is giving out after almost three years of hard use, and I need another reasonably-priced basic digital camera to replace it.




Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Workbook for Dummies, by Rhena Branch. I've heard a lot about CBT, and am interested---but not interested enough to actually SEE A THERAPIST.




L'Artisan Fou d'Absinthe. OMG so expensive. OMG so French and nice.




See's Candies custom mix. I like about 50% Butterscotch Squares and then an assortment of ones I know I like (Dark Buttercream, Milk Buttercream, Maple Walnut, Orange Cream, Vanilla Nut Cream, Chelsea, Raspberry Cream) and new ones I want to try (Mayfair).




Mrs. Meyer's lemon verbena stuff. The Mrs. Meyer's products are STRONGLY-SCENTED (you can still smell them a day or two after you use them), but I love strongly-scented stuff. My favorite right now is lemon verbena, but I also like lavender.

December 12, 2008

Power's Back On

In the middle of the night we lost power, which happens regularly for NO REASON because we have some sort of weird faulty wiring on our street. We became aware of it this time because we have a back-up power thing for our computers that beeps if it's being used. Or rather, _I_ became aware of it, because Paul slept on. I jostled him and told him what was happening, and he said, "Oh. Uh huh," and went back to sleep. So I got up and shut down my computer, but I can't shut his down (it needs a password), so I went back to our room and this time was louder and less gentle, and he got up and started messing around trying to shut down his computer and stop the beeping sound.

Meanwhile, I'd gone to get a flashlight. I keep one in the cupboard by the phone so that there's always one where we can find it quickly. But we have children in our house, so FAIL: flashlight gone. I lit a couple of candles instead, and brought one to Paul so he could see what he was doing.

And here is another example of how I am more AWAKE in the middle of the night than Paul is: As I brought him the candle, I thought of something and said, "Oh! This means your alarm won't go off in the morning!" And both of us set about solving this problem. You decide whose solution shows more cunning:

My solution: Take my alarm clock, which runs on batteries. Go over to a candle so I can see what I'm doing. Set the alarm for Paul's wake-up time.

Paul's solution: Take wall clock down off wall. Balance heavy, round clock against jewelry box on bureau, so that time can be seen from bed. Put lit candle right next to clock so time can be seen in the dark. Go back to bed.


So I disabled his little fire-starting kit and we went back to sleep. Then, at about 3:30, there was a BANG sound. I JUMPED out of bed and went at a quick clip to the big window in the living room. I could see flashes coming from around the side of the house, so I went back to our room where we have a window that faces that side. I put up the shade and looked out, and.... Well, I'm going to say a transformer was exploding, because I don't know WHAT was happening and those sound like the right words even though I don't know what a transformer is or whether they explode. The top part of a telephone/electricity pole looked just like fireworks, with flashes that were bright enough to bother my eyes, and showers of sparks, and loud cracking/banging sounds. After a little while (a minute?) it stopped, and all the lights on the street went out. (The power had come back on while we were asleep.)

In the other room, THREE kids started crying. And THAT'S when Paul first woke up. And he went right back to sleep while I was patting down the fearful children. I stayed awake for another half hour, looking out the window periodically to make sure no fires were starting. Keeper of the Night, that's me.

Speaking of the Keeper of the Night, today the complete series box set of Angel (THIRTY DISCS) is on sale for $51 down from $140. David Boreanaz is SO HOTTT!!! such a good actor.

December 10, 2008

More Gift Ideas, Melissa and Doug Toys Edition

I've had so many good experiences now with Melissa and Doug toys. I'm sure they have their missteps just like any other company, but so far I haven't run into one. Their stuff is good quality, reasonably priced for the quality level, and usually made of wood instead of plastic. I'm not sure I've ever seen one that takes a battery. The toys are mostly the kind that encourage independent/creative play. They make good gifts for your own kids, but also good gifts for other people's kids: they look good and they don't make the parents feel like killing you for giving them something that makes THAT GODAWFUL NOISE.

Speaking of godawful noise, they have a GREAT musical instrument set for just over $12.




This is what I would have wanted: a Melissa and Doug magnetic dress-up doll, $8.75 down from $10.00.




This puzzle bundle isn't on any sale at all at $15, but we LOVE these puzzles at our house. Each picture is missing one piece, and the pieces are all exactly the same size and shape. This makes it a nice easy puzzle for younger kids, but it makes it a HILARIOUS puzzle for older kids: you can make a sheep appear to be wearing pink pants by using the pig puzzle piece. You can make a half-rabbit, half-turtle. Oh, the laughs. My, my. ... In fact, don't get this. Never mind.




OMG, would you look at this princess dollhouse?? It's $58 down from $100, and I want it myself. They have a less girlified one for $66. Either one ships free, which is awesome for a big heavy thing.




Uh. Muh. Guh. Look at this gorgeous huge dollhouse, $56 down from $160!!! I might have to get this for Elizabeth. All she has so far is a purple unicorn. Oh, and dinosaur lacing cards.




We have the shape-sorting clock ($13) and I love it. Edward is interested in telling time; Henry is interested in shape-sorting; they can both play with it. There are a lot of complaints in the reviews that the 5 is six-sided and the 6 is five-sided, but they must have fixed that because mine has a five-sided 5 and a six-sided 6. I think the whole issue is silly, though, since no one complained about the ten-sided 12 or the four-sided 9 or ETC. ETC.




The ice cream scooping set is pretty expensive ($30) but looks like a LOT of fun. Want.




For a toddler, these lacing beads ($10) are a great gift. We have an older version of these (circa 1999!) and they get a LOT of play, even from the grown-ups. Surprisingly, we still have almost all the beads. (We throw them in a bin, though; it turned out to be too much of a pain to carefully puzzle them back into the wooden tray they came in.)




Pattern sets like this one ($13) are a sneaky way to get a little education in on the side. This is the kind of toy I consider a good value because it can be played with at many different ages: even toddlers can try it, but an older elementary school kid would still be interested too. The more kids in my house who can play with a toy, the better.




Another sneaky educator is the alphabet stamp set. It's almost $20, but it looks great to me: full set of both uppercase and lowercase letters, plus a multi-colored WASHABLE-INK stamp pad.




We have an older version of this magnetic fishing puzzle ($10). When Rob was a toddler he got speech therapy, and the therapist used this with him to help him with his motor control. He loved it so much, we bought one for our house. It's still in regular play nearly 8 years later.




We have the farm-animals version (not free shipping, but the total cost is the same) of this cube puzzle ($13), and it's one of my favorites of all our toys. It makes six different puzzles, and littler kids can help by finding the right side of each cube. Henry, 18 months, stacks the cubes like blocks.




I got Elizabeth some dinosaur ones in another brand, but I think these pet lacing cards are cuter. That's a nice amount of quiet play for $10. (There's also a farm-themed set and a shapes set.)




I want to play with this animal stamp set ($13) myself, so I'm wondering which child I can pretend I'm buying it for. The stamp pad is WASHABLE, and it also comes with colored pencils so you can color in the animals. There's also a friendship set (rainbows, flowers, teddy bears) for $8.50, a deluxe set (animals, house, tree, sun) for $15, a vehicles set for $10, a dinosaurs set for $10, a horses set for $10 (I especially like the shades-of-brown stamp pad that comes with that one), a baby animals two-pack for $16 (that one also includes a rainbow stamp pad), and a classroom set (good job, great work, please correct) for $15.


I bought this dress-up puzzle bundle ($15 for 3 puzzles) for Elizabeth last Christmas, and it's one of the very few toys I am not only willing but EAGER to play with. I LOVE changing the outfits: there's a ballerina, a princess, and a regular girl child. I have to make myself wait my turn instead of misusing my parental authority to cut in line.




I am embarrassed to say that not only do I enjoy this bead sequencing set, I find it stimulatingly challenging.